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Friday, September 24, 1999 Published at 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

Eyewitness: Caught in the Jakarta riots

The tense stand-off has been interspersed with fierce clashes

By Jim Fish in Jakarta

Hundreds of heavily-armed riot police and paramilitary forces have been carrying out sweeps through Jakarta's main business district in an attempt to disperse the students and demonstrators.

Fragile Archipelago
After the clashes of Thursday night and early Friday morning, there was a lull in the middle of the day as both sides entered a tense stand-off.

The streets outside the Atmanjaya Catholic University campus were littered with rocks and stones.

On the road there was a large pool of blood - witnesses said one demonstrator was shot in the head by police in the head.

Smoke rose from a burned-out car.


[ image: Some policemen have seemed beyond their officers' control]
Some policemen have seemed beyond their officers' control
Then, just after midday, two groups of several hundred riot police backed by paramilitary forces began a sweep of the area from opposite ends of Sudirman Street, the main road through the business district.

About 1,000 university students - by now joined by workers and secondary school students - escaped through side streets.

I was among about 100 people, mainly bystanders, trapped by the police outside a hotel whose entrance had been boarded up.


Jim Fish in Jakarta: "Trouble seems to follow the Indonesian army wherever it goes."
The police fired in the air and then lashed out with batons, apparently at random.

Several people were beaten, including one teenage schoolboy next to me.

The police at times seemed beyond their officers' control, ignoring their pleas for restraint.

After about half-an-hour, the entire area had been cleared.

But with student groups pledging to continue their protests, the security forces seem determined to make an example of anyone they catch, and are braced for further trouble.



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